Electric Car Drivers Love 'Em, But Don't Buy 'Em: Why Leasing Rules


2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf

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Electric-car drivers love their vehicles, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're interested in long-term commitments.

It turns out that the majority of drivers currently lease their plug-in cars, rather than buy.

Excluding Tesla (which does not release detailed sales information), leasing represents about 75 percent of the electric-car market in 2015--and it was 80 percent in 2013 and 2014.

DON'T MISS: Best Deals On Hybrid, Electric, Diesel Cars For October 2015

In comparison, leasing accounts for only about 28 percent of the overall car market--and 49.5 percent of the luxury-car market, where it's traditionally been most popular.

That's because consumers see multiple advantages in not buying their electric cars outright, according to CNBC.

It's essentially down to the "smartphone mentality," the report says: buyers aren't interested in keeping their cars long term, because they expect something better to supersede them fairly soon.

Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

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Right now, that's not an unreasonable assumption.

The Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt EV are both expected to arrive in or around 2017 with 200-mile ranges, and a redesigned, second-generation Nissan Leaf is expected soon as well.

And while many electric cars carry a price premium over comparable internal-combustion models, lease-rate comparisons are more favorable.

ALSO SEE: GM Targets Tesla With 200-Mile Bolt EV Mantra: 'For Regular People, Not Elites'

There are currently seven electric-car models being offered with leases lower than $200 per month for 36 months.

This is because Federal, state, and local incentives are rolled into the price of a lease, along with any discounts applied by the manufacturer or dealer.

Incentives like the $7,500 Federal tax credit for electric cars go to the owner--in this case the finance company holding the lease.

2016 Fiat 500e

2016 Fiat 500e

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That means dealers can apply it to the rate of a lease, lowering the price immediately. Individual buyers have to wait until they file their taxes to receive the discount.

When combined with manufacturer and dealer incentives, this can dramatically lower the monthly cost of a new electric car.

Back in March, a combination of incentives and discounts on the Fiat 500e led to some California buyers getting leases at $82.75 per month for 36 months.

MORE: Group Buy Of Fiat 500e Electric Cars Ignites 'Feeding Frenzy,' 100-Plus Bought

Drivers who lease also don't have to worry about residual values.

Concerns about range, battery life, and the "smartphone mentality" may be keeping the values of cars down when they come off leases, according to CNBC.

While most cars retain 40 to 50 percent of their original value after three years, that figure is more like 25 to 30 percent for electric cars.

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